27. Lugnaquillia/ Ow Valley

Moorland, blanket bog and forestry

Map reference:TO391 Nearest town:Aughrim

This is a vast and apparently empty place but it is rich in wild plants and animals. The absence of human disturbance must be an important reason for the richness of wildlife in this lonely valley.

Landscape: The Ow river (the Irish word abha, pronounced owa, means river) is a tributary of the Aughrim river, which eventually joins the Avoca at Woodenbridge. The Ow valley stretches for 16km (10 miles) from Aughrim back to Lugnaquillia which, at 925 metres (3034 feet), is the highest peak in Wicklow. The upper part of the valley is cut through granite although the river passes through a mica schist zone at Aghavannagh. The eastern side of the valley, as well as Aghavannagh itself, is filled with conifer plantations. However, the western side is still unplanted and provides good dry walking conditions. The sheer cliffs of the South Prison form an impressive amphitheatre at the head of the valley.

Habitats: Open moorland and blanket bog. The lower slopes are mainly covered with heather and purple moor grass. Higher parts, such as the saddle between Slievemaan and Lugnaquillia, have a covering of blanket bog and can be quite wet and difficult walking after rainy weather. The summit of Lugnaquillia is a plateau with a closely grazed sward of bilberry, grasses and mosses. The Ow
cuts through some small gorges on its
middle reaches.

Wildlife: Hybrid red-sika deer are usually found grazing in small groups in the upper part of the valley. Foxes range widely over the area in daylight due to the relative lack of disturbance. Signs of badgers are plentiful and there is a badger sett high on the slopes of Lybagh, which forms the western arm of the valley.

Dippers and grey wagtails breed along the river, which plunges over several small ravines in its course to Aghavannagh. Ravens are a common sight throughout the valley and peregrines breed intermittently on the cliffs of the South Prison.

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